In slump, Byrnes could be left out


Perlozzo says position `there to be taken' in '06

Ray rises above homer


September 12, 2005|By Jeff Zrebiec | Jeff Zrebiec,SUN STAFF

SEATTLE - One of the main reasons the Oakland Athletics traded Eric Byrnes to the Colorado Rockies earlier this year was that they didn't think the outfielder hit right-handed pitching well enough to be an everyday player.

Now, two months after they acquired him from the Rockies for outfielder Larry Bigbie, the Orioles are starting to have the same concerns. With another right-hander on the mound for the Seattle Mariners yesterday, the struggling Byrnes did not start for a second straight day, and his status as the Orioles' everyday left fielder appears to be in doubt.

Byrnes, whose batting average is .214 since joining the Orioles and .244 overall, is hitting .194 against right-handers for the Orioles (.211 for the season) and .262 against left-handers. The traditionally streaky Byrnes is also 1-for-21 and is in a 14-for-90 (.156) slump after hitting safely in his first 11 games for the Orioles.

"I think the jury is still out," said Orioles interim manager Sam Perlozzo when asked if he feels Byrnes is an everyday player. "He is one guy that has put up legitimate numbers that say he is an everyday player. He is a little streaky right now. We have another three weeks to go. We are going to see what happens and try to evaluate a little better where he fits in."

Perlozzo said that he is going to play the outfielder who is swinging the best bat, whether that is Byrnes, B.J. Surhoff or David Newhan. "It's there to be taken," the manager said of the starting left-field spot.

Byrnes has been working every day with hitting coach Terry Crowley, trying to figure out what is ailing his swing. So far, he's found no answers.

"I'm working, that's the only thing I really can do at this point," he said. "To this point it's been pretty much a disappointment. At the same time it's not from lack of effort. I have enough faith that it's a matter of time before it works itself out, but hopefully it will happen sooner than later."

Byrnes said that he wonders how much playing for three teams and four different managers through the course of the season has affected him. It, however, is not an excuse, he said.

"As far as Colorado and here, those teams have given me an opportunity to play, I've just [stunk]," said Byrnes, who was unhappy with his non-everyday role with Oakland. "I haven't played up to my capability. I'd love to stay in Baltimore and be here for the next few years, but at the same time I'm sure Baltimore wants to see me being productive, and at this point, I haven't been."

Ray rebounds

The Orioles have learned plenty about rookie reliever Chris Ray this season, and on Saturday, Ray showed once again that he had the proper makeup to handle a little adversity.

On his first pitch in the Orioles' 5-3 win on Saturday, Ray gave up a three-run, eighth-inning homer to Mariners slugger Richie Sexson, cutting the Orioles' lead to 4-3. Ray didn't sulk, throwing several good pitches and getting the dangerous Adrian Beltre to ground out.

"He came back and pitched very well," Perlozzo said. "That, to me, is a good sign. He could have gone ahead and walked the guy and gotten wild or tried to pitch around him and gotten us in a deeper hole, but he went right after him. I told him that. Sexson has hit a lot of balls out off a lot of people. That's nothing to be ashamed of."

Said Ray: "Everyone is going to get home runs hit off them. I've had pretty good success forgetting about it and the next guy is a clean slate."

Young's first hit

Walter Young had waited a long time to get his first major league hit, and when it finally happened with a sharply struck single to left field on Saturday, Young barely believed his eyes.

"It really didn't dawn on me," said Young, who said he was relieved to get his first hit out of the way and plans to put the ball in a trophy case. "I was just out there reacting to the pitch. After [first base coach Dave] Cash called timeout and asked for that ball, that's when it kind of hit me a little bit. I was a little jittery, a little excited, had to calm myself down but after the first inning."

Perlozzo was pleased to see Young make an adjustment and go the opposite way on the at-bat. He also gave the 6-foot-5, 322-pound rookie positive reviews for his defense at first base.

Around the horn

Hit by a Bruce Chen pitch in the first inning yesterday, Seattle outfielder Jamal Strong fractured a bone in his left hand and will likely be out for the season. ... Jay Gibbons was removed from the game early on Saturday because his back stiffened, but he was back in the lineup yesterday, going 2-for-4.

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